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York History

History in York George VI said: “The history of York is the history of Britain itself” and as you step back in time through the city walls and walk along the Shambles it’s easy to see what he meant.

York has a rich history and there are many jewels hidden away on every corner. From the birth place of Guy Fawkes to the house of martyred saint Margaret Clitheroe, the fascinating history of this city is all around and rings out when the bells of The Minster sound.

York has been a prominent city for thousands of years but how did it come to be so?

The journey of York begins long before history was written down and filed away.

The Roman name for York was Eboracum, based on a native British name for the ancient site.

When the Anglo-Saxons arrived in the north from Germany and Denmark in the 6th century they made Eboracum the capital of Deira, a Northumbrian sub-kingdom.

In 865 AD the Danes captured the north and in 876 Halfdene the Dane made Eoforwic the capital of the Viking Kingdom of York. Later in 918 AD a mixed race of Norwegian-Irish Vikings settled at York and for many years York was subordinated to the Viking stronghold at Dublin. Viking influence can still be detected in the street names of York, where the suffix ‘gate’ as in Stonegate or Goodramgate derives from the Old Norse ‘gata’ meaning road or way. Stonegate follows the course of a Roman road through the city and Goodramgate is named after Guthrum, a Viking leader.

The Vikings interpreted Eoforwic, the Anglo-Saxon name for York as Jorvik. In the late Viking period it is thought that the name Jorvik was shortened to something resembling its present form, York and in the medieval age the name York was generally used, although an independent form ‘Yerk’ is known to have existed at this time.

Today the early forms of York’s name are still well known and although the Viking Kingdom of York no longer exists, its natural successor Yorkshire - ‘the county of York’ still takes its name from this ancient city.

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